Monday, July 7, 2003

The LATimes reports in advance of a "Conservative" Catholic conference being held this week.

That sort of uncompromising statement of traditional theology is part of the point of the conference, which organizers hope will draw a record 9,000 participants from across the country to the Anaheim Convention Center next Saturday and Sunday. Last year, 5,800 people attended the event. The event has moved to Anaheim after being held in Long Beach for years.

Hearing speakers like McGuigan and choosing from nearly 50 sessions, those who attend "are going to get what the church teaches in a very convincing way," said Terry Barber, president of the Catholic Resource Center, a lay ministry based in West Covina that sponsors the conference. Conference topics include "How to Keep Your Kids Catholic," "Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus: Outside the Church, There Is No Salvation" and "A Message to Our Separated Brethren: America's in Trouble."

"We're talking about speakers who are on fire," Barber said.

The resource center started 24 years ago, distributing tapes of Fulton J. Sheen, the bishop from Syracuse, N.Y., whose radio and television broadcasts espousing traditional theology made him a prominent figure in the Catholic Church until his death in 1979.

Today, the conferences operate with the permission of the local bishop, who reviews the topics and occasionally asks that a controversial presentation — such as one dealing with apparitions — be stricken from the program.

The ministry's independent nature and conservative theology bother some in the U.S. church.

"It's troubling to me that there's this move to create a parallel culture," said Father Thomas Rausch, a theology professor at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

"What they are really saying is that they're not getting true teachings of the church" in their home churches. "And that's too bad. It reflects a loss of confidence they have in the leadership of the church."

Barber doesn't disagree.

"People are not getting the teachings of the church" at the local parishes, Barber said. "We'd like to go out of business. We're just trying to respond to a need the church has: giving [parishioners] convincing reasons for their faith and giving them hope."